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Replacing Timex Watch Back

Recently, my wife inadvertently got water in her Timex watch. Even though it is supposed to be water-resistant to 50 meters (~165 ft), which would be a pressure of over 65 psi, it got waterlogged with just a quick trip into the shower… Not sure how that works. This required me taking the back off of her watch and then replacing Timex watch back. I heard her go into the shower and not even a minute later say oh shoot (unlike me, she rarely swears), and then set the watch down outside the shower. I could see water under the crystal. :(

In here, I’ll discuss removing the timex watch back and then, more importantly, replacing timex watch back. I’m not sure how the professional watch repair places do it, but I imagine the have a special tool for replacing timex watch back. Actually, the same tool is probably used for all watches that have the back pressed on as opposed to either being screwed on or held on with screws. Several of my “scuba diver” watches had the screwed on case. The current watch I wear has the back attached with four tiny screws through the back plate into the main plate.
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Before you remove the back, I strongly suggest you figure out if you have the necessary tools so that replacing the timex watch back doesn’t mean going to the store and having someone else do it. The trick to this is that you need a “cup” that you can lay the watch in, face down so that the rim of the cup does NOT touch the crystal NOR does it touch the stem. I used the cap off a shampoo or conditioner bottle as my cup. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked, none the less.

Replacing Timex Watch Back – Tools

C-clamp large enough to grasp the watch and your holder
a cup or holder for the watch
I used a hard plastic cap to large bottle
Other ideas a piece of Hard wood (i.e pine won’t work)
PVC pipe cap
metal pipe cap
if you’re using a metal cap you will need a soft cloth or other soft item to protect the surface of the watch from scratching. I got lucky with my hard plastic cap.
if using hardwood or scrap metal, you can drill the correct size hole so that it is a perfect fit.
soft cloth or rubber pad to put the watch on (if using something other than plastic as your holder)

Removal
knife
Safety glasses!

When I removed the back I was concerned about the knife blade potentially shattering and throwing shards into my eyes so I wore safety glasses. (Cheap insurance)

Remove one of the retaining pins from the bracelet so that the watch body is only attached to one end of the bracelet. This is not really essential at this point, but will make re-assembly much easier. Furthermore, you are less likely to damage the watch internals if you get the bracelet out of the way before you open the case. Still, if you prefer when replacing timex watch back, do it later.

Place the knife blade under the tab that is at about 1 to 2 O’clock on the case back as you look at the words in a right side up, readable, fashion. Gently pry the case back up. As it comes up, be sure not to scratch or cut the rubber gasket that surrounds the case. See the attached drawing. The Gasket sits in the groove, and the inner lip of the groove is smaller than the opening of the case, while the outer lip is larger and sits over the watch back. This prevents the back from falling into the watch and protects the soft gasket from damage. Notice that the tab is sitting adjacent to one of the bracelet anchor points that extend from the case. This is great as it give you an anchor to pry against when opening. Remember when you are putting the watch back back on.

replace timex watch back

You’ll notice that when you remove the back of the watch it doesn’t pop or snap, it is a gentle continuous motion. Nothing Jerkey. No noises, it weill go back on the same way.

After drying the watch (in my case) and replacing the battery it is a 1216 battery 3V lithium, you’re ready to replace the back. First make sure the gasket is completely and properly seated in the groove on the case back. Clean all exposed areas of the case. I used “Q-tips” dipped in IPA to clean the mung from around the back. It’s amazing how much dirt and grime can get under there given how tightly it is closed. Be careful not to push the dirt into the watch.

Place the watch face down on your circular holder. Ensure that the stem of the watch clears the rim too. In my experience while I could place the watch properly clearing all obstacle, as soon as I began to tighten the first clamp onto the back of the watch it would slide enough that the stem would hit the rim. If I continued to apply pressure I was concerned that it would bend the stem. I thought of two ways out of this pickle. the first would be to cut a notch in the rim slightly bigger than the stem so that the stem wouldn’t contact it. A Dremel tool would make short work of it. I decide to try my second idea first as this bottle cap needed to go back on the product. That was to pull the stem out like I was going to set the watch. That was very close, but worked saving me from having to perform surgery on the cap. Put the clamp on the back and gently tighten it. You want to have the clamp off to the side,, close to the edge fo the case.

Two reasons for this:

First it will help ensure the sealing gasket is properly seated and not pinched. Second the edge of the case is stronger against in/out pressure than in the center. I envision the possibility of the clamp dimpling the case back before it is seated and possibly contacting the electronics and damaging it. If you want to try it with only one clamp, then I recommend inserting some type of metal plate under the foot of the C-clamp so you can spread the force out over a larger area and be sure not to damage the case back.

Gently tighten the clamp until the case is seated on that side.

Add the second clamp on the other side of the case and begin tightening it gently. Watch carefully as you tighten the clamp. Make sure the watch doesn’t slip or move and potentially damage the stem or crystal as you continue tightening the clamps to replacing timex watch back.

Again, the back will gently push into the case. Once in place, slowly loosen the clamps, one at a time. As you loosen the clamps, be sure the case doesn’t start to come apart. As long as you’ve properly aligned everything and have not pinched the gasket, you’ll be fine.

Let me know if you’ve found this helpful in the comments below.

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{ 31 comments… add one }

  • A Crim January 8, 2012, 10:28:31

    This man is a genius! I searched many sites to find an answer, and took it to a jeweler who unfortuneatly did not have a special vise and this guy figured out how to get around that. Thanks much.

    • Dan February 18, 2012, 12:22:47

      I’m glad it worked for you.

  • Surprised February 15, 2012, 20:11:02

    Great trick! Works easily

    • Dan February 18, 2012, 12:23:47

      They say necessity is the mother of invention, I’m glad I was able to help.

  • Paul March 21, 2012, 18:03:22

    I used a little less equipment, but I stayed with the vise technique.

    I had the vise off center with a piece of wood (also off-center) over the face and just tightened the vise. Then, I put a cloth over the watch case and used a pair of groove-lock pliers. I squeezed at one spot on the edge, then moved about 75 degrees and squeezed again lightly. I heard a pop, and thought, “Well, either it worked, or I broke my watch.”

    It worked. [:-)

    • Dan April 9, 2012, 07:35:35

      Glad it worked! The biggest thing for me is to get people to try to do it themselves.

  • Kat the Geekess April 18, 2012, 19:34:21

    Pair of vice grips, locked onto the Timex Indiglo watch (crystal protected with doubled microfibre-back in single layer) and a set of channel locks to gently squeeze together. Gentle ‘pop’, watch is good to go again. I thought I was going to break my fingers/hands trying to squeeze it back together before I found your site.

    • Dan April 22, 2012, 15:18:20

      I tried a couple of times with pliers, vice grips and after having everything shoot out of the side, thought “there has to be a better way…” glad it worked out.

  • Judy O May 24, 2012, 16:47:32

    It worked for me too! I gently turned the c-clamp till I heard the snap.
    Yes, I agreee, Genius.

  • Cheap to the Core July 27, 2012, 19:14:21

    Used a plastic bottle cap as described and one large c-clamp. For your recommended metal plate, used two 1.25 inch metal washers with 1/2 inch hole. Placed one washer on the back to distribute the force around the edge and another on the front of the plastic cap to do likewise. Brushed a very small amount of silicone lubricant on the rubber gasket and the metal groove. Centered the c-clamp and turned gently. It was a “snap”!

  • Larhanya August 17, 2012, 18:04:16

    My husband just put ours back together using a cloth, two loonies (Canadian $1 coins), and a pair of groove-lock pliers (we didn’t have a c-clamp). He wrapped the watch in the cloth, placed the loonies on either side of the watch, and gently squeezed. He said he actually probably squeezed too many times since it didn’t make much of a noise muffled in the cloth.

    • Peggy Wikiruk September 30, 2013, 13:20:50

      It worked!!! Thank you. Spent an hour trying to get that thing on my watch.

  • jim October 5, 2012, 14:50:15

    thanks i am going to try

  • Dave January 17, 2013, 21:23:47

    I looked at your example of having a cap…and two c-clamps.

    Then I thought of using “Quick-Grips” which are quick vices for clamping wood pieces together.

    They are already pretty wide, and the clamping part already spans the entire width of the back of the watch.

    The Quick grips worked like a charm!!

  • OJ January 19, 2013, 13:14:45

    You don’t know how long I was struggling with this stupid Timex watch, trying to put the backing on. I was about to give up and have a repair shop do it. The answer was right there when I googled it. Yes, you are a genius. It’s the simple things in life that make me happy. Thanks for being there when I needed you!

  • Graham March 13, 2013, 16:05:14

    If yu don’t have a bottle cap, use a hex socket, that worked well for me

  • Joe Zagar March 18, 2013, 17:39:10

    Nice article. I wish I would have read it first. Does anybody want to buy a Timex with a cracked crystal?

  • John Preece April 16, 2013, 11:09:16

    Thanks for the tip. The first thing I saw with a top on was a tablet container and amazingly the diameter was perfect for the job ( about 3.5 cms ). The top was of the type with two arrows which has to be pressed down before unscrewing. A lot of people would probably have one of these in their house. I put the watch, plastic top and piece of wood in my vice and gingerly tightened everything up. After a few nervous attempts it worked like a dream. Just make sure everything is lined up before you start tightening the vice. I tried a clamp first but settled for a large vice which distributes the pressure more evenly.

    • Dan April 16, 2013, 19:24:56

      You bring up a great point and that is to spread the force out as much as possible. I love that everyone is coming up with different “adapters” to fit their watches.

  • Dredsel June 4, 2013, 19:04:50

    Like Joe I have one with a cracked crystal for sale. I ordered another on Ebay tonight as I really like the watch. I will try to install the back again tomorrow just for my own satisfaction. I tried a vice without the bottle cap. That was after WalMart was unable to reinstall the back after battery replacement.

  • KATHY June 20, 2013, 21:33:57

    Like yourself, I am a do it yourselfer. Glad I click on your site. Have changed many Timex batteries with some effort getting the watch back back on but always managed to get it back on. This Timex Indiglo was a thumb buster!! Found some other sites and videos and they made it look so simple, “just use your thumbs to gently push back on” Wrong!! So after a good two hours of trying everything from pliers to placing piece of would on back and trying to force down on back, I found your site!!! :0). Read some of the replies, and combined a few. Took a mouse pad to cushion the face of the watch a quarter for even pressure on the back and put it in a vise grip and gently tightened. No snap or noise. Figured it was a waste of time, but to my amazement when I loosed the vise the back was back on! Hooray! Thanks for posting this article and to those that posted replies.

  • ChrisG July 8, 2013, 14:17:32

    I’m glad I stumbled on to this site. Boy, there was NO WAY I was going to simply press the back on the watch with my thumbs (as most other sites suggest). My first “press” – an aspirin bottle cap – was too soft to work well, but I found that an old light dimmer switch fit perfectly (after drilling out the middle post). It was a bit slippery, but three small clamps did the job. Not a job to try without a little patience. Thanks for the great idea.

  • Tinker Bot July 15, 2013, 21:25:19

    I had just about given up on closing the watch back because my fingers were sore and it just wasn’t closing but then I thought about how much my jeweller was gonna charge me to do it … So I decided to do a search on the internet and thank God I clicked this link first! I didn’t have a c-clamp and the bottle cap kept shifting so I used cardboard, two layers on each side , and a pair of groove-lock pliers. Thank you for the post and to those who commented!

  • Will Speak August 25, 2013, 21:43:52

    After many unsucessful attmpts to refit the back to my watch I found your site. I managed to find a plastic cap to protect the face of the watch but I don’t have a G clamp so I used a 30mm square batton of wood about 60cm long which I placed across the watch back while I pushed down on each end, click, job done! Thanks for your advice.

  • sandra August 31, 2013, 09:53:46

    first let me say thank you for all the help…well I have some good news and some bad news… fixing my husbands watch I managed to get the back on but in the process the small(and I mean small) black seal band that was around the back cover broke into 3 pieces. Can someone tell me if it matters please. Thank you for all the comments.

    • Dan September 15, 2013, 10:54:29

      I believe what you see that broke or was cut into several pieces is the seal. This purpose of this is to deep moisture from getting into the watch. If your watch had some sort of water resistance, it now has essentially none. The moisture can come from sweat, it doesn’t have to be a shower, bathtub or pool. BE Careful! Ideally, you should find and install a new o-ring. The difficulty is that sometimes the seals are not true O-rings, but more like a rubber washer. (not a true donut or toroid shape)

  • Mimi August 31, 2013, 21:44:20

    After many sore fingers, a big pinch and thinking I did not have enough strength. I decided to try the web before having to go to the jeweler. I didn’t have a plastic cap so I used a 2″x2″x1″ block of solid foam to protect the crystal and a counter vice/grip. My first attempts did not work fully but I found that it had held at one end. So, I started pressing and rotating on the vice and it worked fine. Thank you Dan for the post and for sharing the other tips.

  • Pradeep Kumar November 19, 2013, 09:24:00

    It worked for me, thanks a lot for posting this. :)

  • Ted Liebert November 26, 2013, 20:42:12

    Worked great. I used two different pliers and a bottle cap. The key is not to place aby pressure on the crystal. Before I found your post, I did and cracked the crystal. Thanks for your help!!!

  • Normie March 8, 2014, 13:47:50

    I just replaced the CR1620 battery in my Timex 1440 Sports Watch, and it was simple and uncomplicated.

    Having read the posts about the difficulty in resetting the display and replacing the back, I was prepared for the worst, but there was no need for bent paperclips or clamps. I just popped in the new battery and the display started right up. The watch back fitted immediately and the screws tightened easily.

    It went very smoothly, and my rummage sale watch is purring right along. Don’t be afraid to try to do this yourself.

  • Sharon April 15, 2014, 10:58:57

    You, Dan, are a rocket scientist!! Thank you SO much!!!

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